Osteopathic manipulative treatment improves chronic back pain

Patients with the worst pain and higher degrees of disability were found to benefit the most from the treatment.

By Stephen Feller

CHICAGO, March 1 (UPI) -- Osteopathic manipulative treatment can improve recovery from chronic low back pain and help patients avoid surgery, two recent studies show.

Researchers at the University of North Texas not only found OMT treatment can help the condition, but that patients with the worst pain and most disability benefited the most during eight weeks of treatment.


OMT includes the moving of muscles and joints, including stretching, pressure and resistance, to ease pain and increase mobility. The treatment is used for asthma, sinus disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as back pain, according to the American Osteopathic Association.

In the initial study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers recruited 455 men and women between the ages of 21 and 69 who had low back pain for at least three months to determine whether they could benefit from OMT.

The researchers reported that 20 to 25 percent of patients found relief from pain intensity and experienced improved function because of their measurable recovery from lower back pain.

As a result, the researchers than mounted a second study, also published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, to determine which subgroups of back pain patients would benefit most from OMT treatment.


The second study found patients with greater pain felt a larger effect from OMT, with those rating their disability scores 17 or greater on a scale of 24 seeing significant positive effects and those starting with pain at a 7 had medium effects from the treatment.

"Subgrouping patients according to chronic low back pain intensity and function appears to be a simple strategy for identifying patients who can attain substantial improvement with OMT," said Dr. John Licciardone, a researcher at the University of North Texas, said in a press release. "From a cost and safety perspective, OMT should be considered before progressing to more costly or invasive interventions."

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